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Georgia regulators choose not to raise rooftop solar cap for now

The Georgia Public Service Commission decided to study the costs and benefits of rooftop solar before they vote on a rate increase for Georgia Power in December.

AP — Georgia regulators turned back an effort to expand by 75,000 the cap on the number of rooftop solar panel installations where Georgia Power pays a high rate for power generated.

In a 3-2 vote, the Georgia Public Service Commission decided to study the costs and benefits of rooftop solar before they vote on a rate increase for Georgia Power in December. The number of participants will remain frozen at the current level of 5,000 until then.

The Georgia PSC approved Georgia Power’s plan to meet electricity demand from its 2.7 million customers over the next 20 years.

The approved 2022 IRP allows the company to add 2,300 MW of renewable energy resources over the next three years. The company said that would support its plan to add 6,000 MW of additional renewable resources by 2035. 

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Regulators approved additional investments in Georgia Power’s hydroelectric generating resources, including 45 MW Plant Sinclair, in operation since the 1950s, and 6 MW Plant Burton, in operation since the 1920s.

Regulators also tentatively approved what is expected to be Georgia Power’s largest single battery energy storage system project to date, the McGrau Ford Battery facility. As proposed, the resource would include a 265 MW lithium-ion facility interconnected at the McGrau Ford substation. Regulators also approved an additional 500 MW of battery storage.  

Also included in its decision, the regulatory body approved a 250 MW distributed energy resource pilot program. The DER Customer Program would allow participating customers to receive a resiliency service via a company-owned, operated and maintained DER, such as a solar and battery energy storage system. Participating customers could also elect to receive a credit in exchange for Georgia Power’s ability to access the DER during a system reliability event. 

The approved IRP also includes an Income-Qualified Community Solar Pilot, which is intended to will allow income-qualified customers to participate in the company’s Community Solar program at discounted prices.

Commissioners approved the retirement and decertification of all Georgia Power-controlled coal units by 2028, with the exception of the 3,300 MW Plant Bowen. Regulators also approved 2,400 MW of capacity from natural gas power purchase agreements in the coming years.

As approved at a July 21 hearing, Georgia Power would contract with Southern Power, another unit of its parent, Southern Co., for the natural gas-fired capacity between 2022 to 2028.

Regulators are expected to reevaluate Bowen 1 & 2 as part of the utility’s next regularly scheduled integrated resource plan (IRP) in 2025. The 11th hour deal to keep Plant Bowen open was initiated by Commissioner Fitz Johnson.

Georgia Power files an IRP with the Georgia PSC every three years. The commission is scheduled to vote on Georgia Power’s rate plan in December. If approved, a residential customer who uses 1,000 kWh of electricity each month would see their bill increase from $128 now to $144.29 at the end of three years.

Georgia Power’s Plant Bowen. Credit: Georgia Power

Georgia Power’s coal assets include Plant Bowen, Plant Scherer, and Plant Wansley. Plant Bowen began commercial operation in 1975 in Bartow County, Georgia. The four coal-fired units are capable of producing 3,376 MW of electricity.

Plant Scherer began commercial operation in 1982 in Monroe County, Georgia. The four coal-fired units are capable of producing nearly 3,720 MW of electricity.

Plant Wansley began commercial operation in 1976 in Heard County and Carroll County, Georgia. The two coal-fired units are capable of producing 1,840 MW of electricity.

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